Being a working woman and a mother is no walk in the park. It’s a constant struggle juggling the responsibilities at work with those at home and it’s a phenomenon women experience worldwide. However, while the acceptance and tolerance for working moms is increasing around the world, it might be too soon to say the same for Pakistan.
Recently, member of Balochistan’s Provincial Assembly, Mahjabeen Sheran was criticized and asked to leave because she brought her unwell 7 month old infant to the assembly. Now as per a report by Al Jazeera, she is determined to run a campaign that will make day care facilities mandatory in all government departments and assemblies.
Being a working woman in Pakistan itself has a certain stigma attached to it but add in children and the struggle becomes very real because working moms are usually criticized for whatever they do. They are told that they neglect their children and are somehow bad mothers for having a job.
Sheran told Aljazeera in a statement, “I was torn between attending the session and staying home taking care of my son. So, I decided to bring my son because I didn’t want to miss the session.” Sheran who became a part of the assembly in 2018 further added that choosing between taking care of her sick child and attending the session was the “worst” situation for her.
The criticism came from her fellow male colleagues who were not accepting or understanding of her situation, “I felt embarrassed because some men in the session were making jokes and smirking about me bringing my son. At that point, I looked for someone to stand up for me and support me, but no one did.”
Realizing that no one would support her, Sheran decided to engage with activists and other political figures to not only establish day care facilities in government offices but also to help change the attitudes of the men around her.
The problem might largely stem from the fact that her male colleagues and superiors fail to empathize with the difficult choice a working mother has to make which is why the legislator stated that she aims to propose a bill that will allow female legislators to bring their babies to assembly in order “to share the experiences of working mothers with men”.
Although Sheran has only just begun her campaign, the situation is far better for legislators and other professional women in Islamabad as a daycare center was established in Parliament House 2 years ago.
All around the world, more and more working mothers are being appreciated and valued with an understanding of their particular situation. Who can forget the praise New Zealand’s Prime minister Jacinda Arden’s historic moment when she attended the United Nations General Assembly with her new born son back in 2018? Other examples include Argentinian politician, Victoria Donda Perez who was praised for breastfeeding her child while attending a parliamentary session.
Instead of making any attempts to understand the struggles that working women face, we are used to using the archaic rhetoric that a woman’s only job is to stay at home. This is no longer acceptable and needs to change.
The only thing that we may lack is the inability to view women beyond the stereotypical assumption that they are someone’s mother, daughter or wife. These relations are very important and are a great source of strength and drive for many women, however, they are not all that make a woman and that is something that needs to be understood as more and more women venture out towards the workforce.